A group of Magnolia Park merchants has asked the city to crack down on parking enforcement and add tougher parking restrictions on their block, arguing that customer traffic has suffered due to a local cafe "monopolizing" area parking.
Ten merchants signed a petition requesting city officials change parking time restrictions from two hours to one on the 3400 block of Magnolia Boulevard to "encourage curbside turnover," citing that customers of neighboring Romancing the Bean, which opened nearly two years ago, park and stay at the shop for hours using the Internet.
"We are losing clientele," said Adrian Danescu, owner of Burbank Books and Antiques, who said he's reported a 10% to 15% loss in sales in the last year. "We are in a position right now that we talk about closing the business and moving somewhere else."
Charlotte Carpenter Lewis said her four-month-old shop, Miss Charlotte's Vintage, also struggles with customers finding parking as well as enforcement of the parking restrictions already in place.
"I thought this was a primo area," she said. "Had I known the issues, I wouldn't have opened here."
But Kerry Krull, owner of Romancing the Bean, said the only time the streets are really busy is during peak lunch hour.
"Nobody stays here six hours," she said. "If they did, they should be getting ticketed."
At 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, the cafe had about two dozen customers, a third of which were using laptops. According to Krull, customers stay for 45 minutes on average, but she's working to shut off wireless Internet access during peak lunch hours.
One change all of the merchants agreed on is asking the city to install a crosswalk at Magnolia Boulevard and Lima Street, where there's a city parking lot a block away. On a sign posted inside her shop, Krull urges her customers to park there.
Some shop owners who signed the petition said parking enforcement has picked up following their complaints, though sometimes, officers will mark the parked cars and take up to five hours to return.
"When we call parking enforcement, they don't show up," said Kim Persinger, who co-owns Burbank Antiques with her husband. "They said they're busy following the street cleaners giving tickets."
Just before 1 p.m. Thursday, one parking-enforcement officer was taking photos of cars parked on the street, and shortly after, another pair of officers drove down the block chalking car tires.
Persinger said she gets up to six phone calls a week, mostly on the weekends, from customers circling the area, unable to find a spot.
Edward Yacoubian, 80, who's owned and operated Sous Shoe Repair for nearly three decades, also signed the petition. His first customer of the day on Thursday walked in shortly before noon. Before, he said, he'd be 10-customers deep by that time.
"Since they opened the coffee shop, our business is going down," he said.
Krull, who is on the board of the Magnolia Park Merchants Assn., said her goal is to make the area a destination through events such as Ladies Night Out and Holiday in the Park.
"Of course we want everyone to thrive," Krull said. "No one wants to come all the way over here just for a cafe."
The association includes 57 businesses on Magnolia Boulevard between Clybourn Avenue and Victory Boulevard, she said.
But not every business benefits from the special events. One morning after Ladies Night Out, Danescu woke up to vomit on the window of his storefront, he said.
Danescu, along with a few other merchants, voiced their concerns during a City Council meeting on Tuesday, where officials agreed to explore installing a signal and crosswalk at Lima Street, as well as strengthening parking enforcement.
"The time limits, two hours, one hour…meaningless if they're not enforced," said Mayor David Gordon. "We do need to look at that right away."